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Do we have to choose between equality and prosperity? Many think that reducing economic inequality would require such heavy-handed interference with market forces that it would stifle economic growth. Heather Boushey insists nothing could be further from the truth. Presenting cutting-edge economics with journalistic verve, she shows how rising inequality has become a drag on growth and an impediment to a competitive United States marketplace for employers and employees alike.
Boushey argues that inequality undermines growth in three ways. It obstructs the supply of talent, ideas, and capital as wealthy families monopolize the best educational, social, and economic opportunities. It also subverts private competition and public investment. Powerful corporations muscle competitors out of business, in the process costing consumers, suppressing wages, and hobbling innovation, while governments underfund key public goods that make the American Dream possible, from schools to transportation infrastructure to information and communication technology networks. Finally, it distorts consumer demand as stagnant wages and meager workplace benefits rob ordinary people of buying power and pushes the economy toward financial instability.
Unbound exposes deep problems in the US economy, but its conclusion is optimistic.
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Computing Resources Can Target Inequality
Well done taking dry left brain data and putting meaningful right brain meat on its bones. Heather Boushey brilliantly deconstructs how market libertarians have misappropriated Adam Smith for their own ideology of selfish gain at the expense of society's rightful economic health. With facts and data the author skewers the rationale underlying the supply side snake oil that has dominated economic assumptions in recent decades—by disproving the assertions of frequently cited libertarians such as Milton Friedman and Jean-Baptiste Say, and corroborating opposing analyses by Thomas Piketty and other economists.
The answer is in the disaggregation of economic data, and in looking beyond the basically useless GDP metrics to focusing on the effects that economic events have on regular consumers. Throughout the book Boushey demonstrates how inequality affects economic outcomes—and how economic power is used to distort social and economic policies toward profits for the few, with vastly reduced industrial productivity and negligible research and development. It's not a matter of charity toward the less capable, but rather that of providing the actual producers (workers and inventors) their just due.
Methods to correct this economic distortion include reinstituting Progressive and New Deal era regulations on financial institutions and corporations. This may be done with updated approaches based on new data made possible by the increased computing power that was not available in the early and mid-20th Century. With these computing resources, economists may now objectively demonstrate the need to jettison the libertarian ideology that has been disproved by empirical data. The political changes needed that are indicated by these new data are obvious.
The COVID-19 pandemic only makes the corrective measures presented in this book all the more urgent. Let's get to it!
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